Thompson Rivers University

Distinguished alumni recognized

November 17, 2023

2023 Distinguished Alumni

Thompson Rivers University (TRU) is honouring five esteemed alumni with Distinguished Alumni Awards for outstanding achievement, leadership and public service.

Honouring exceptional graduates has been a cherished tradition at TRU since the inception of the Alumni Association in 1995. After pausing the awards in 2020, TRU is reintroducing the Distinguished Alumni Awards with an exemplary group of recipients.

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane | Distinguished Alumni Award, Public Service 2023

Caroline Cochrane’s (BSW ’99) political career began with a fervent desire to improve the lives of people living in her home territory. Now the outgoing premier of the Northwest Territories, she was elected as an MLA in 2015 and became premier upon re-election in 2019. Her tenure proved eventful and challenging — the territory endured the COVID-19 pandemic, frequent flooding and devastating wildfires during her term in office. She met each challenge with grit and compassion, leading the charge to implement 9-1-1 service in the NWT, advocating for greater support from the federal government to reduce wildfire risk and working to ensure women are well represented at all levels of government.

Prior to politics, Cochrane worked in public service as a social worker and administrator. Her own lived experiences of homelessness, poverty and domestic abuse survival led her to become a champion of change for others in similar situations. She credits the education she received at the University College of the Cariboo (now TRU) with changing the course of her life and the lives of her children. She continues to have a passion for public service.

WATCH: Caroline Cochrane | Distinguished Alumni Award, Public Service 2023

Joshua Gottfriedsen

Joshua Gottfriedsen

Joshua Gottfriedsen | Distinguished Alumni Award, Public Service 2023

Joshua Gottfriedsen grew up in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and is an accomplished athlete, actor and advocate for Indigenous people. Currently he is a Tk’wenem7íple7 (councillor) for Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc. He was a student-athlete at TRU and received his MBA in Indigenous Business and Leadership from Simon Fraser University in 2017.

Since he was a teenager, Gottfriedsen has been strengthening his voice as a Secwépemc leader in his home community and far beyond. He has held positions in regional, provincial and national politics and was elected to the Assembly of First Nations from age 18 to 30 as the co-chair of the National Youth Council. He was the male youth representative for the BCAFN, a youth representative for the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, and a director for the First Nation Youth Council of BC Association.

WATCH: Joshua Gottfriedsen | Distinguished Alumni Award, Public Service 2023

Aleece Laird

Aleece Laird

Aleece Laird | Distinguished Alumni Award, Service to Community 2023

Since well before her current role as the founder and CEO of Amplify Consulting Inc., Aleece Laird (BBA ’98) has been giving back to her community as a volunteer, a mentor and an expert in public relations and communications. From her teen reign as a Kamloops ambassador to her work with Operation Christmas Child Canada, Laird has always prioritized helping others.

She is a committed volunteer who has held a wide variety of executive titles, including Kamloops Chamber of Commerce president, chair of the board and governor of the BC Chamber of Commerce and past director on the Canadian Chamber of Commerce board. In 2021, Laird received the City of Kamloops Exemplary Service Award, a formal recognition of her contributions to the community.

A graduate of TRU (known then as the University College of the Cariboo), Laird was an engaged student as president of the student society and is an active alum; she served a two-year term on the Alumni Board of Directors and has volunteered as an alumni career mentor.

WATCH: Aleece Laird | Distinguished Alumni Award, Service to Community 2023

Kuljit Minhas

Kuljit Minhas

Kuljit Minhas | Distinguished Alumni Award, Health Care 2023

Kuljit Minhas (BSc ’03 RT ’06) is a registered respiratory therapist who has worked with the Fraser Health Authority (FHA) for nearly 18 years. He is a professional practice leader with FHA and is a past president of the BC Society of Respiratory Therapists (BCSRT) as well as the current president of the Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists. He was also part of a group of professionals working to establish the College of Diagnostic and Therapeutic Health Professionals in BC. Through each role, Minhas leverages his extensive knowledge and industry connections to improve the quality of public health care in B.C.

Whether serving on committees, presenting at industry conferences, mentoring colleagues or interacting with patients, Minhas brings his expertise, passion and commitment to improving BC’s health industry for both patients and professionals. In September 2023, Minhas was the inaugural winner of the BCSRT Lynn MacIsaac Leadership Award, given to an respiratory therapy leader in B.C. with a passion to inspire and develop others who has made a significant contribution to the profession.

WATCH: Kuljit Minhas | Distinguished Alumni Award, Health Care 2023

Greg Stewart

Greg Stewart

Greg Stewart | Distinguished Alumni Award, Athletic Achievement 2023

Greg Stewart (BBA 12) is well known in Kamloops as a former TRU WolfPack athlete and Paralympic world champion. Stewart won a gold medal at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, persevering through delays and the COVID-19 pandemic to throw a Paralympic record of 16.75 m in shot put. He is a multi-sport athlete, winning extensive accolades on the basketball and volleyball courts. He is also a personal empowerment coach and motivational speaker, using his experiences to champion excellence, mental wellness and vulnerability.

Currently retired from competitive sport, Stewart continues to be a powerful advocate for Canadian high-performance athletes through his work as an athlete representative on the board of directors for Athletics Canada, the national sport governing body for track and field. He is also on the board of directors for AthletesCAN, the association dedicated to supporting and being a voice for Canadas national team athletes.

WATCH: Greg Stewart | Distinguished Alumni Award, Athletic Achievement 2023

WATCH:  Advice to Students from Distinguished Alumni Award Winners 2023


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